Jon Stewart’s impact on the media and politics is undeniable. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has noted that, when he presents a news story “Jon’s always in the back of my mind,” and that Stewart’s “The Daily Show” “hold[s] people to account, for errors and sloppiness…it’s healthy.” Stewart is often seen in this light—as a comedic check on the excesses of hypocritical politicians and the press that enables them. Stewart is a channel for the frustration many feel against those in power, and a voice for those without.
But for all the praise Stewart has received, some of it justly deserved, we should also discuss the negative impacts of “The Daily Show,” and of comedy-news programs more generally. Although immensely entertaining, irresistibly likeable, and at times informative, Stewart is doing great damage to the public discourse in this country. He is, of course, not the main culprit of this. But his approach is indicative of the national mood and illustrative of how not to engage with those we disagree with. “The Daily Show” is at fault in two primary ways: its reliance on caricatures and its promotion of cynicism.